All Manner of Thing…Even Trump or Clinton

julianAccording to Wikipedia, Julian of Norwich was the first woman to write a book in the English language. She said that she had a vision of Jesus in which he comforted her with a phrase that has become famous:

“In my folly, before this time I often wondered why, by the great foreseeing wisdom of God, the onset of sin was not prevented: for then, I thought, all should have been well. This impulse [of thought] was much to be avoided, but nevertheless I mourned and sorrowed because of it, without reason and discretion.
“But Jesus, who in this vision informed me of all that is needed by me, answered with these words and said: ‘It was necessary that there should be sin; but all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.‘”

I’m not sure what to say about the legitimacy of this story. But granting for the moment that this is God’s perspective on things, I’m tempted to wonder why Jesus speaks in the future tense. If things are not well now, how could they become well? Even a future heaven will no doubt include our memories of sadness and sin, and of course the wounds upon the Divine Person – by any account a shocking reflection of our sin against God. The usual answer is that those things, while reflections of sin, are also reflections of love. When, in heaven, we remember our sadness and sin, we will remember how desperately we needed Christ’s love and how undeserving of it we were. And when Christ displays his wounds, he displays the depth of his love for us. But if that’s all true, then why not go all the way and say the same things about the bad things in the world right now? Why not say with Alexander Pope  that these wrongs are “well” because they display God’s love?

I think the genius of Julian’s quotation is just that it holds back from such a justification of the wrong in the world. The bad things that happen really are bad. Jesus’ suffering was bad. But the world will be well partly because of that – the depth of Jesus’ love will not be revealed unless bad things are done to him. That doesn’t make the bad things good, because his love isn’t revealed unless they are bad. This means that the future “well” is not merely what people have called “pie-in-the-sky-by-and-by.” It’s not just that God steps in and makes it all better, it’s that the pain now is part of the happiness then. And there is pain right now – right now, things are not well.

trumpsclintonsSometimes we can’t avoid bad things. In a few days, America will elect a president who many people fear will bring complete catastrophe. It doesn’t matter whether it’s Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton – both have large groups of opponents who fear the worst if they are elected. No matter which is elected, we have a very contentious and upsetting next four years to look forward to. Things are not well in American politics. One way to trust in God’s sovereignty is like this: “God is in control, so there’s nothing to be concerned about.” But that’s not what Julian of Norwich would recommend. I think her advice, and the more correct and realistic way to trust in God’s sovereignty is more like this: “Very concerning things are happening, but because of that, God will make all things well.”

Lies we’ve been fed.

With all of the changes and violence in the news, and people thinking about the end of the world and Biblical prophecies, something I’ve noticed lately is that most people have huge misconceptions about Satan and Hell. Even as Christians, we need to take note of the lies we’ve been fed…

Satan in hell cartoonIt begins when we watch cartoons as kids…. You know, when someone dies, there’s the devil: all red, with horns, a tail, and a pitch fork, waiting to welcome the newest inmates that have arrived for him to torment! — *ahem!* — Firstly, let’s remember that Satan is a fallen angel, formerly called Lucifer, who in his pride wanted to be equal with God. One third of the angels followed him, and they (now called “demons”) were all cast out of heaven.

Satan’s status in Hell will be absolutely nil. He will have NO power. – Hell is a place of eternal death for Satan, his demons, AND all who have died a spiritual death due to sin. That is… all who are not covered by the blood of Jesus Christ, through faith! – Hell is complete separation from God… we wanted nothing to do with God, so that’s exactly what He gives us: the absence of Himself.

Satan is NOT the master of Hell! Satan didn’t create Hell, and God certainly didn’t create it for him as a place where Satan could be the ruler, and reign his terror on sinners. – [Our sins are disobedience against GOD’S law, and Satan is the worst offender. He has no right to punish anyone.] – The Bible tells us Satan is the “father of lies”, who masquerades as an angel of light. – His acting is convincing, and his temptations are tempting. (Obviously!) He wants to keep as many people bound by sin as possible.

Moreover, there is the concept of an/the Antichrist. Firstly, anyone who is against Christ is anti-christ, i.e. an antichrist. But Satan’s biggest attempt to overthrow God’s plan will ultimately be [the] Antichrist. Until he is thrown into Hell, Satan will continue to do all he can to steal, kill and destroy. He’s *always* trying to raise up the Antichrist, because although God knows who it will be, he doesn’t! He can’t see the future. — This is a good reminder to simply put our trust in the Lord, and not waste our life or money trying to figure out prophecies that God said we’re not supposed to know the answer to.

Maybe next time, when people around you are upset about the next big tragedy in the headlines, you can talk to them about how the one true God is a God of justice. He will never let the wicked go unpunished, and Satan will one day meet a very bitter end; never to gain power again.

Flawed Infallibility

Big head bucky ball BobaAs my sisters tell it, I was quite the bossy little boy. I knew I was always right, and that God was on my side. When others DARED to disagree with me, I would ask them in a shocked, nasally sing-song voice, “You don’t listen to God?!”

This attitude may be amusing in a child, but to my horror, I’ve found it still prevalent in my life, and in the lives of fellow Christians. We think our understanding of God is infallible, shaking our heads, pointing our fingers, presuming to speak on His behalf.

Two examples.

As a Christian born in America, I subconsciously believed my political party was a part of my identity as a Christian. I never realized that I held this belief, or came to question it until 2001.

One Sunday during the aftermath of 9/11, I attended a service in Taiwan where a pastor criticized the American government for seeking revenge, and emphasized the importance of forgiveness. I was disturbed for two reasons. One, how could a Christian disagree with the decisions of my political party in America? Two, why didn’t I understand enough about politics to defend my country’s actions as right and moral?

God created the world, so evolution must be wrong. How can people believe in Jesus and the Bible without knowing the truth?

One year at VOICE, someone on my team disagreed with creationism. I tried to convince him that his science textbooks taught him lies, but in the end, his belief in evolution – and lack of belief in God – remained unchanged.

When I shared my experience with my pastor, he told me something that has slowly transformed my way of thinking over the past ten years.

“We must not allow secondary issues to distract us from what is most important: whether or not they will accept Jesus as Lord.”

But you might ask, what about the verse in I Peter 3:15 that tells us, “…always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you…”?

Exactly. The hope that is within us, that is what we must defend. In all other areas, we must be open to the possibility of our fallibility, or else we will be like Christians joining a murderous crusade to the Holy land, the Catholic church condemning the scientific discoveries of Galileo, or like a self-righteous little boy who has still so much to learn about God.


The taking of Constantinople. Public Domain.

What’s Stirring You Up?

Many people will spend the summer occupied with fishing and politics. In fishing you use a worm, and in politics a worm uses you.”  -unknown

Well, it’s election season here in the US, and emotions seem to be running high, just like every other election year. It is fascinating to observe how politics quite often brings out the worst in many people. The political jokes start flying around, the other party and person that you disagree with gets demonized, and many people can’t stop thinking about how the world will end if the other guy wins the election.

I can’t help but wonder, as I’ve observed the madness of this election season, that many of us Christians really are consumed with the wrong things. Do elections matter? Oh, you had better believe that they do. Does God care who gets elected? Considering the references in Scripture about government, it would be foolish to say that God doesn’t care. Yet my struggle comes down to how obsessed God’s people are with the election process and the final outcome.

So what’s the big deal? Isaiah 64:7 says “There is no one who calls on Your name, who stirs himself up to take hold of You.” Many of us Christians (myself included) get “stirred up” quite easily. Our heart gets pumping, our energy skyrockets, and our mind races when it comes to numerous topics – especially elections. We stir ourselves up with so much, but are we stirring ourselves up to take hold of our King? Most people who know me will agree that I am one who gets passionate about various subjects – and in many ways, that’s not a bad thing. The problem occurs, however, when that passion takes over and we get so consumed with a particular interest that we put off striving to live out the Greatest Commandments: to love our God with our whole hearts and to love our fellow citizens. I can’t help but wonder if God’s people lived like He is real in every way, then how might the political landscape be transformed in ways that it never has before?